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Monday, April 23, 2012

Rutgers Research Trip #1-Part 1

Week #1
My biggest ongoing research project concerns the impact of clinical depression on the labor market outcomes of young adults (20-34 yrs.). I started this project in 2009 with Dr. William M. Rodgers III of Rutgers University. This is a special project for a variety of reasons, one being that I get to work with my undergraduate professor and adviser, now friend and mentor.

The project will likely result in at least three manuscripts. The first two are our current focus. I traveled to New Jersey to both work with Bill in person and to access restricted data at the RDC @CUNY-Baruch College.  Last year I secured the VFIC Mednick Memorial Fellowship to fund the trip. My traveling poodles, Millie and Lily, accompanied me on the trip (although they do not get to go into the city.)

I met with Bill twice in the first week. The first meeting was to set a plan for this trip and the one in July. Last Wednesday we met at a Starbucks near where Bill had a TV interview with EBRU for the show EBRU Today. This week he discussed equality for women in the workplace. We hammered out a 3+ hour session reviewing the results generated over the past few months, namely a meta analysis of a set of depression impacts from three data sets and three measures of depression and a decomposition of the therapy effects on labor markets outcomes for the clinically depressed. The later analysis is similar to a decomposition of the earnings gap between men and women.

Several major items came out of our meeting. We decided that it was important to use quantile regression techniques, in addition to Heckman selection models, to analyze hours of work. That become one of my tasks for the remainder of the week. Additionally, in the therapy decomposition, an indicator for health insurance should be included. It will be interesting to see the impact of this variable as some mental health professionals do not deal with health insurance making the patient responsible for reimbursement from the insurer and initially having to cover the office visit. Could this create disparities between low- and middle/upper-income households? Finally we need to try a set of industry indicators as labor market outcomes vary by industry, particularly during periods of economic downturn.

How has my time management been? I have found that I am most productive in the early morning (5:30-10:00 am) and the evening (5:30-10:30 pm) on this trip. Thus my routine has evolved into two intensive sessions a day sandwiching a running session and non-research related work. One afternoon I even participated in my student's (Sara Caudle) Honors in the Major presentation via conference call.  I have also been working on the dreaded academic assessment report for the RC Economics Program. I am getting a considerable amount completed, so I will stick with this schedule.

Rutgers track facilty
Running is also getting on track after an ankle scare two weeks ago. I sprained my ankle running on the Mill Mountain trails with friends. Thankfully it was nothing major and after some rest, lots of cold/hot contrast therapy and gritting my teeth through some runs I am back in order. I did my first track workout at Rutgers University's track. The facility is next to the basketball arena (imagine the crowds for some of those Big East match-ups!) I also went to Princeton University last Friday evening to watch the Larry Ellis Invitational. Some impressive performances including a high school female running 2:05 in the 800 and another going 16:15 in the 5K!

Over 5000 runners!
Sunday I did the 8K at the Unite Half Marathon @ Rutgers University as a rust buster. This course was challenging with lots of long steady climbs after 2.5 miles. I was the first female and second overall in a field of over 700 runners. The time was nothing to write home about, but a good tempo effort, especially just 4 weeks after a marathon with very few workouts under my belt. I also had the pleasure of running my friend and research colleague, Dr. Yana Rodgers (Bill's wife and my Economics of Development professor at the College of William and Mary), in the last few miles of the half marathon. She ran close to her personal best and we hope qualified for a big half marathon in New York. I also met several other female runners on my cool-down. Running is such a great community activity in addition to its health benefits. There were over 4500 runners in the half marathon! Luckily the three inches of rain the area was suppose to get held off until the half was almost over.

This week will be much of the same, save a trip or to into NYC to visit the RDC.

Happy running and research,

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A running & research long weekend - Part 4

Day 5 - Race day
My little girl, Millie
My alarm went off at 3:00 am. 6:30 am race starts are early! And I need to give at least three hours for my final calories to digest. Got up with my sweet little girls (Millie and Lily) to have oatmeal with a touch of granola, Hammer Heed and a nice cup of coffee:) I have been eating oatmeal every morning for some time now, including big long-run workouts, so I know that it works well with me. Keeping the fluids pumping in with some additional calories through Heed. I drink coffee every morning (and many other times during the day/night), so I don't want to change that, even though I don't need any help waking up this morning. I am so excited for the race.

After eating I did some work on my depression project and readied my marathon iPod play list to keep my mind off of  the race. The only time I let myself think about it was when I needed to do something for the race, such as drink some fluid, shower or checking that my Perpetuem bottles were ready for my mother to bring to the race course. Staying only in the moment helps me avoid race-day jitters and get "monkey mind."

I left my mother's house at 5:15 am to drive to Wrightsville Beach park and the start line. As I drove past the  Landfall entrance that marathoners would be going through three times this morning there was considerable police and EMT activity. I texted Coach/Race Director Tom Clifford in case the road was going to close. That would be a mess! We later learned that the commotion was for a race volunteer who was hit by a drunk driver. He amazingly only broke his ankle. WOW.  Talk about someone looking out for you.

Warm-up 5:45 am
100% humidity and temps already around 60 degrees met us this morning. I am so glad that I was aggressive as possible with hydration yesterday. The key to a decent race will be conservative running, keeping fluids and calories coming in, and patience. A PR is not likely in the cards, but competing and going for the win still is. After going through some dynamic stretches, I got my iPod out and started an easy 10:00 jog with strides on the loop, visualizing the first part of the race. I was happy and at peace, which is the best way to go into a marathon. Nerves were calmed by seeing running buddies Melanie, Melissa, Crotty, John, Leigh, Jason and Kyle plus coaches Tom and Brian before the start, as we waited for Tom's big AC/DC Thunderstruck race start. Just before the start, I looked up to see my husband, Brandon. What I surprise! He drove down after a meet at Lynchburg College and stayed at my sister's. What a way to start a race. That and the rocking AC/DC pump up:) Now to run like I mean it!

Race 6:40-9:40 am
Once the gun goes off in a marathon, I am always so much more relaxed than the days leading up to that moment. I have heard some say that the hardest part of running a marathon is stepping up to the line. It can be daunting to think about the challenge that awaits:) Amazingly all of the tightness and awkward running feeling that I had been having for the last three weeks was gone. I felt super smooth and knew by mile one if I ran smart I would have a good race (given the conditions). The lead biker picked me up after leaving Harbor Island around three miles. There is nothing that gets you going like seeing a bike pull up next to you with the sign "Marathon - Female Leader" on it. It still gives me chills. When I passed Christa and Tom for the first time I gave them big thumbs up, letting them know it was a good day.

My mother, Brandon and hat:)
As we came onto Military Cutoff for the first time, the crowds were amazing. This is one of the reasons why I love this race. People are up and going nuts early on a Sunday! I kept an eye out for my "crew" of Brandon, Kate, and my mother who had my bottles of Perpetuem. Luckily Brandon had a huge leprechaun hat on, which made his already 6'2" frame visible in the dense fog. The plan was to pickup a new 14 oz. bottle when I passed them at miles 5, 12 and 22. Turned out to be a very good plan, and in fact I held on to each until I came to the next. I was pushing fluids throughout the entire race. Something I learned at a very hot marathon many years ago. I also took Endurolyte capsules every two miles.

Yucky mile focus
I felt great through 16-18 miles, with a slight bad spot at 14. This is normal, as I think that the body switches energy sources around 14 miles. As my friend Tara says, "Good miles can still come." I just know that I have to run though a few yucky ones. Luckily seeing friends in Landfall helped bring a smile to my face during this period. Being in the moment and smiling helps so much.

I am also a big fan of music, especially in races where you will be alone without other runners. Some of the tunes that got me through Quintiles 2012 were "Lose yourself," "Dr. Feelgood," "We are young," and, coincidentally over the final miles when the cramping set in, "Living dead girl." There was also a little Britney, J-Lo and Pink in there I will admit:)

Mile 22
By the time I got to my family the last time my calves were ready to cramp. The key to the final 10K was going to be staying off of my toes as much as possible. Although I had been on PR pace through halfway, surprising myself with some sub 6:40 mile splits (although I backed off each time knowing that dehydration was coming with the weather), the weather was taking its toll. I had a large enough lead that as long as my muscles did not completely lock-up I would win. I focused on enjoying what was left of the race and slowing my pace enough to not lose my calves completely.

Mile 26.1
High five Dan & Christa
Coming into the finish was amazing. WOL teammates were out in force. I had made it through despite the weather. I even got to high-five friends as I came in. I actually did not even care that the clock had already gone over three hours. I truly enjoyed this race and did the best that I could on the day. Hard work paid off, and my doubts over the last few weeks were for nothing. The time was not what I had trained for, but given the weather, it was a great job. Not that long ago I was struggling to finish a marathon.

Good times will come if I keep doing what I am doing and listening to my coach. I have a great running support group and enjoy the training process. I learned that the taper can be TERRIBLE, but when the gun goes off I can feel great. Tom always says that trust is so important, and this was the perfect example. He knows what he is doing, and if I trust the process, it will work out. Think of all of the wasted energy over the last few weeks! I am so grateful to have people who listened to my carrying on and sometimes crying (Tom, Christa, Matthew, Jackie, Brandon and Leigh to name a few). I am so lucky.

Here is to recovery, extra research time (and gardening in this beautiful weather) and focus on the Columbus Marathon 2012,

Thank you Daddy
PS-I have run the Quintiles Marathon three years in a row in memory of my father, William Diedrick Kassens Jr. who died unexpectedly February 18, 2010. I race with a mini bow tie patch on my uniform in memory of his everyday fashion that many remember him for. He was with me throughout the race and through life.

I miss you so very much. This race & win was for you Daddy.